Edinburgh's Contini restauranteurs serve up revamped capital site

The firm is owned and operated by Carina and Victor (pictured) Contini. Picture: Gordon Bell.
The firm is owned and operated by Carina and Victor (pictured) Contini. Picture: Gordon Bell.
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One of Edinburgh’s best-known restaurant groups has unveiled the results of a major refurbishment in time for Festival season.

Victor and Carina Contini’s Scottish Cafe & Restaurant at the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound has re-opened its doors after the seven-month revamp.

The independent family business is owned and operated by the duo – who are also behind fellow capital restaurants Contini George Street and Cannonball Restaurant & Bar near Edinburgh Castle.

They said the “fresh new look” interior champions many Scottish designers, and the overhaul comes 100 years after the Contini family arrived in Edinburgh from Lazio in Italy. The duo say they support independent family businesses in Scotland and still buy from some of the producers their grandparents worked with.

Jackie Fisken of Edinburgh interiors specialist Ampersand supported the design, which includes the first commercial commission for Scottish textile designer Mairi Helena. The latter’s Fire Thistle textiles take inspiration from Scottish landscapes and flora, including rustic sea walls found along the East Neuk coastline, to the fishing nets in Pittenweem harbour, lichens and wild gorse.

When the eatery first opened, Annie and Lachlen Stewart of Anta created the venue’s solid oak furniture.

The Continis, in line with their sustainable ethos, recommissioned and upcycled all the dressers, tables and chairs, with the addition of textiles from Bute Fabrics, and Glasgow designer Timorous Beasties. The Continis have also worked with fit-out contractor Thomas Johnstone, a family business dating back some 150 years.

The menu showcases seasonal and local Scottish produce – including Cullen Skink, Aberdeen butteries, fish and chips, and Knickerbocker Glory.

The seasonal Scottish lunch menu includes more contemporary dishes like Peterhead cod kedgeree and Perthshire chanterelle spelt risotto.

Other options include a traditional Scottish Sunday roast, high tea for two, with cakes baked in-house by The Scottish Cafe pastry team –and there is a dedicated scone trolley service.

The Continis’ current supplier list includes more than 70 artisan growers and producers and their own kitchen garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh continues to supply the restaurant with daily harvests of edible flowers, herbs, salad leaves and berries. Their honey comes from their own hives at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One.

Carina Contini, owner of the cafe and restaurant, said: “Following the seven-month redevelopment, our new and returning customers will now benefit from improved accessibility from Princes Street Gardens.

"Our terrace will be open shortly with stunning views over the city. We very much look forward to sharing the ‘Victor Welcome’… the space is now on one level, which adds a whole new energy – and we’re all loving it.

“In 2008, when we first had the opportunity to pitch for the Service Level Agreement at the National Galleries of Scotland, we saw this as the perfect venue to celebrate the best of Scotland amazing larder and showcase the finest of our artisan producers.”

“The food scene has changed so much in the last 10 years and we are very humbled to be recognised as one of the first businesses to champion Scotland’s great food heritage.”